Lorenzo Vidali awoke to the morning sounds of the kitchen. Lazily he checked his clock which told him it was 9:00 a.m., Saturday, and time to get up. Having a weekend job on top of a hectic school schedule was very demanding, and so was the quota of four leads an hour he met each work day with his marketers. Every weekend he and his team collected the names and phone numbers of people interested in house painting or related home renovations. His manager was his brother Orlando, often called « Dino, » who spent most of his time out with his girlfriend or painting houses.
Slowly Lorenzo slid out of bed and slipped into a cold white T-shirt with a « Student Works Painting » logo on it and a pair of blue jeans, the « cool » kind with huge sagging cargo pockets. After getting used to his clothing he left his messy room, completed all his bathroom chores, and plodded out like a zombie.
« Morning, Mom. What’s for breakfast? » murmured Lorenzo.
« Gooood Morning, Da-tzee, » exclaimed his happy mother as she gave him a big kiss on the cheek. « We’re having eggs and toast. Does it sound good? »
« Yeah, I better eat before my workers come. Too bad they can’t drive themselves to work. Dino’s car is so darn packed when we’re drivin’ there, I can’t even move, and now it’s gonna’ be even worse with Chelsea in the car. »
« I’m so glad Dino has a nice girlfriend–and glad he broke up with that other ding-a-ling, » stated his mom with a strong tone of disgust in her voice.
« Good morning, Love, » called Lorenzo’s dad Aldo as he entered the kitchen with an arthritic limp.
« Morning, Pa. »
« Good morning, Ti, » said Aldo. He often used the nickname « Ti » instead of « Lorenzo. »
« Good morning, Love, » replied Mom with an angel voice, quite different from her voice when talking about Dino’s ex.
« Good morning, » said Dino and Chelsea at the same time as they entered the kitchen and yawned.
While Lorenzo munched on toast he began to wake up fully. The family chatter became more irritating and when he had finished his last bite of egg he wanted to run to his room and call up the movie theater to get away with his friends…but he didn’t. He just couldn’t stand the way his parents would criticize everyone and the way his brother would act immature and try to tackle him. Chelsea was all right. She had just come to visit and was going to stay for the summer. He hadn’t been around her long enough to not stand her yet.
« Gosh, why does my dad always get so emotional when he talks about politics. It’s so ANNOYING!!!!!! » thought Lorenzo. « I wish Dino would stop trying to make me laugh; it’s getting Mom angry. I can’t stand it when she blows her top over the tiniest things. »
A few minutes later when the dishes were in the washer, the doorbell rang.
« Yo, wassup, Brian? »
« Hey, Lorenzo. »
Brian was about two years Lorenzo’s junior, and he was an outgoing, loudmouthed guy which was quite comical for is small stature (4′ 9″), yet it fit his red hair and freckles. He loved to get in trouble and get kicked out of class at school whenever possible.
« Hey, Nikko. »
« Hey. »
Nikko and Lorenzo were very close to best friends. They both enjoyed making fun of everybody and they would laugh while everyone else would steam. He was a small person with black hair and a cut that reminded Lorenzo’s mom of the Beatles. Nikko was quite soft spoken but had his clever moments.
The doorbell rang again.
« Hey, what’s up? I’m Lorenzo? Pleased to meet ya’. »
« Hey, what’s up? I’m Schuyler. »
Schuyler was the « new » kid. He had yet to learn the ropes of the job and seemed to be cool. He was about Brian’s age and they were actually good friends–a squat little fellow who often expressed his love for prime rib.
« All right, kids. Let’s go! » Dino announced with one arm around Chelsea’s waist.
Everyone hopped in the car and drove off leaving Lorenzo’s parents to themselves in a now quiet house.
A banged up old black Honda Accord barreled down the highway in the fast lane as everyone in it nodded their heads in sync to the heavy metal music playing on the radio. Orlando turned down the volume.
« So, Ti, where do you need to be dropped off? »
« Oh, just where that big block of houses is in PG. »
« Pacific Grove? »
« Yeah. »
Soon the marketers stood in the middle of a mass of houses. The hours began. They went door to door with their flyers and clipboards collecting names and numbers. It was a hard job and some people had dogs that chased them off into the streets.
Out of the many homes visited, certain inhabitants became stories to tell. A rickety old gate creaked as Lorenzo opened it and proceeded toward the front door of a run down old house with a dead lawn and a huge monster truck in the driveway. After ascending the stairs to the porch, Lorenzo knocked loudly on the door. The air was putrid with the smell of old beer and cigarettes. As he was looking around at the yard, the door opened and a huge man with bloodshot eyes stared down at him. Way too intimidated to say anything at first, Lorenzo falteringly gave the man his pitch.
« Hi, my name is Lorenzo from Student Works Painting. Are you?… »
« Wrong Time!! » interrupted the hulk rudely and slammed the door.
Lorenzo quickly ran out of the yard of metallic junk.
A few houses down the block he approached a plot of land with a trio of ugly pink houses. There he found three drunk folk who stumbled around loudly, blabbing. One was a rough lady in her forties, waxing an old black car. Another a man about the same age with a beer belly, sipping a huge bottle of beer called » A 40, » and the last was a second man, tall and skinny, puffing a joint. All three junkies displayed red-faces and a jolly gait, and after asking Lorenzo many questions they each signed his paper and added their phone numbers. Lorenzo was quite pleased, but didn’t expect anything out of these leads because the signers were drunk. He then caught up with his friends who were starting on the next street.
Brian Leach hadn’t gotten any leads, so when he approached his next house he recited his pitch monotonously. The house needed a paint job and was moderately kept up.
« Hi, I’m Brian from Student Works Painting. Are you interested in getting your house painted this summer? »
The lady at the door paused.
« Yes. »
Gleefully Brian gave her his clipboard to sign and skipped off to tell everyone else the story of how easy it was to get that lead.
Nikko knocked on the wooden door of another run-down house with a broken truck in the driveway, a dead lawn covered in mechanical parts and a few baby toys, and a porch with holes in it. Before he could take his hand away from the knocker, the door was jerked open and a burly man with a baseball bat stormed out! At first Nikko didn’t know whether to run or stay, until he heard the man scream:
« GET THE HELL OFF MY PROPERTY!!!!! »
With that Nikko flew like the wind and got as far away from the house as his legs could carry him before collapsing to catch his breath on the sidewalk to wait for his friends. Lorenzo opened the gate of the next house that sat in a narrow gorge. It reminded him of a fictional « hobbit hole » in a movie he had seen. A small blue chimney presided over what looked like a mound of bricks and a small wooden door which met the knuckles of Ti’s fist. It took an eternity for the door to open and when it did, an old old lady showed herself. Clad in a night gown at noon, she shook her head when she heard the offer.
« Oh, no thank you. You see my husband died and I had a heart attack, so no, » mumbled the lady in a slow, feeble voice.
Politely she asked for a flyer and the personal number to call Orlando directly. It took her ten minutes to find her phone book, another five to find the right page on which to write the number, another five minutes to find a pen, and another two minutes to write it down. Behind her stood a chair covered with blankets, a newspaper weighed down by a thin lens magnifying glass, and a bottle of pills. Lorenzo departed with a solemn heart.
The next house stood in a secluded cove and Lorenzo cautiously approached it. He was still thinking about the poor old lady who lived all alone. Another drunk man approached him and he was not so friendly.
« Hi. My name is Lorenzo from Student Works Painting and I’m wondering whether you’re interested in getting your house painted this summer. We stain decks and do trim… »
« NO, YOU DON’T DO TRIM, YOU PAINT THE TRIM. SAY PAINT THE TRIM!!! »
« Uuuuhhhhhh. » Lorenzo stuttered. « You you you you you pu pu paint the trim. UHHHH, are you interest…ted? »
« I don’t know — it’s not my house. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! » he laughed uproariously. Lorenzo was relieved yet quite perplexed at the man’s apparent schizophrenia. Lorenzo gave him a flyer and ran toward his friends who were congregated near a telephone pole down the street.
« Gosh, there are so many weird people around here, » Lorenzo thought. « It seems that normal people are hard to find and that a majority have some kina’ mental sickness. I can’t believe the way some of these people live, think, and act. I’m sure as hell glad that I don’t live around here. I better finish this street before I get mugged. »
Nikko, Brian, and Schuyler, with white faces, sat talking as Lorenzo skidded to a stop before them, leaving a cloud of dust behind.
« Where have you been, dude?!? Dude, there’s a dead guy in that house! » said Schuyler like he had seen a ghost.
« Yeah, right. I was dealing with another drunk guy. »
« Oh. No, I’m serious — that guy is dead! You gotta’ call somebody!!! »
« Yeah, he’s right, » Brian said in a subdued voice.
« DUDE, GO!!! HE COULD STILL BE ALIVE! » urged Nikko.
« OK, OK, I’LL GO TAKE A LOOK. »
Ti casually walked up the steps of a little brown house with red trim. There were flower pots in many places on the lawn and it seemed peaceful. Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted as he came upon the paned glass door, horrified to see that his friends spoke the truth! There sprawled a old 65-year-old man with tubes up his nose and no clothing. His haunted eyes were glazed back and one of his arms lay in a deathly reach for the telephone. Unable to contain himself, Lorenzo tore for the other side of the street and dialed 911 on his cell phone.
« YEAH, I NEED AN AMBULANCE! WE’RE MARKETERS AND WE CAME UPON A HOUSE WHERE THERE APPEARS TO BE A MAN LYING INSIDE…..WHAT? OH, NO, HE’S NAKED. HE’S IN HIS 60’S AND HAS OXYGEN NOSE TUBES, AND HE LOOKS LIKE HE MIGHT HAVE HAD A HEART ATTACK! »
« All right, I have a unit on the way, » said the operator.
Within seconds a HUGE red fire engine, an ambulance, and two police cars appeared. As four paramedics in blue rushed to the house, two firemen took the rear and a cop slowly approached Brian, Nikko, Lorenzo, and Schuyler.
« Did you boys find him like this? »
« Yeah, we did. He was just lying here, » Lorenzo volunteered.
« You did the right thing, son. »
« Thank you, sir. »
« Yeah, well, a dead body is something that you’ll never get used to, ya’ know? »
« This is the first time I’ve seen a dead body, » Lorenzo shivered. « I hope I don’t see one again. »
Then the cop left and Ti phoned his brother. His hand was shaking so much that he could hardly dial the number.
« Hey, Dino, let’s go home. »
« Why, it’s only 4:30? »
« We just need to take a break…we found a dead body. »
« A dead body?!?!? »
« Yeah, I think everyone should go home. Brian’s a little shaken up. »
Nikko sat down and opened up his water bottle, taking sip after sip, and Schuyler plopped on the ground unable to stay standing.
« All right, Ti, let’s go home. Just try and forget about it. »
The soft headrest of the car caressed Ti’s head he dosed off to sleep. He woke with the slamming of a car door and found himself back home in the garage. Slowly everyone entered the house and after a few minutes Nikko, Brian, and Schuyler were picked up by their parents. It was so good to be home. The delicious smell of dinner filled his nose and Lorenzo was so glad he had such a nice family. Everything was cozy and normal…just the way he liked it. He never realized how stable his family was, how his dad got emotional about politics because he cared about his sons’ future, and how Mom just cared so much about details because she loved him. Over dinner Lorenzo related all that had happened that day and felt the warmth once more of his home. He took the next day off to be with his friends.